The furnace didn't work and as winter grew colder, 29-year-old Karla spent more and more after-work hours gathering damaged and discarded wooden pallets from grocery store trash bins to fuel a wood-burning stove.

"It didn't heat the whole house," she said, "so my two children and I lived in front of it. The pallets burned fast and hot; the heat was great, but it didn't last."With a low-wage job, Karla couldn't afford furnace repairs. "I had financial problems and just did anything I could to conserve money."

She heard about the Home Energy Assistance Target (HEAT), sponsored by federal funds and administered through the Social Services Department, and her household became one of more than 26,000 that have received a one-time grant to help pay for utilities.

The HEAT program closes March 31, but anyone who applies and qualifies for energy-payment assistance before that date will receive the full grant for which he's eligible, depending on where he lives, household income, size of household and type of utilities used.

In Salt Lake County, for example, grants range from $91 to $227 for natural gas and $104 to $259 for electricity. Cache County has a slightly higher range because of colder weather: $114 to $286 for gas and $132 to $330 for electricity. Payment is made to the utility company and can be split between two companies, if desired.

HEAT income limitations are $601 per month for one person, $805 for two, $1,009 for three, $1,214 for four, $1,418 for five and $1,622 for six.

Karla received $226, and HEAT arranged for a repairman to fix her furnace at no cost to her.

"They were very prompt and very kind," she said. "I'm recently separated from my husband, and I've never taken assistance of any kind. I'll do all I can to work for it. But sometimes you have to resort to getting help. It really saved us."

To apply for HEAT outside of Salt Lake County, contact your local Social Services Office. For a nearby location in Salt Lake County, call 538-3977. Applicants must provide identification, Social Security numbers for household members over 18, a copy of the most recent utility bill from each of the home's major suppliers and verification of the past month's household income. Medical payments can be deducted with proper proof.